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Library Meeting Attracts A Crowd

By Ted Brewster

Approaching the library on School Road on the afternoon of November 20th it was clear that something was happening: the parking lot was full and vehicles were parked along the road almost to the high school. Indeed, something was going on – the annual meeting of the Susquehanna County Historical Society and Free Library Association.

More than two hundred people lined up out the door to collect ballots for the election of members to the Board of Trustees. Some of them left after marking their ballots, but enough of them stayed for the meeting to fill the main meeting room to overflowing, necessitating a Zoom session to accommodate those in another room.

There was some nervous anticipation after a couple of rancorous meetings of the Board over the past few months, drawing a tense and sometimes angry crowd to the Hallstead branch in September when the Board adopted a new "privacy policy" that some thought would keep parents from knowing the borrowing habits of their children.

Nothing so boisterous happened this time. People on various sides of the issue remained respectful and attentive as current Board President Stephen Spero opened the meeting with a moment of silence remembering long-time library administrator and supporter Susan Olszewski Stone. While the ballots were counted, he introduced the afternoon's program, beginning with a presentation by Library Administrator Kris Ely.

Ms. Ely described the library's many offerings, only some of which are actually books: clubs of various kinds, after-school programs, podcasts, ebooks, and many more. The library's holdings include more than 100,000 items, including guitars, dolls, even cake pans – and books. The library offers free use of computers and Wi-Fi. She said that more than 450 children had participated in reading programs at the libraries last summer.

Ms. Ely remarked on the renovations that will be taking place at the Forest City branch, where a building adjoining the existing facility has been acquired.

Ms. Ely summarized the library's finances. About 52% of its revenue comes from the state and the county. About 60% of its expenses are for its staff of about 29. At least 12% of its state and county subsidy must be spent on books and other reading materials. Mr. Spero said that the library had realized about $90,000 from the Blueberry Festival last August.

Board Treasurer Kathy Matis told the meeting that the Association ended 2022 with a loss of almost $141,000; the loss this year is expected to be comparable. The library's advisors have recommended drawing $55,000 from its investments (totaling just over $1 million) to help fund the budget for next year.

The audience then heard a brief report from the other side of the house, Bonnie Yuscavage, of the Historical Society that operates the museum and research library on the green in Montrose. Ms. Yuscavage described some of the Society's collections, and some of the updates that are taking place to its presentations.

Only half a dozen people rose to speak when Mr. Spero opened the floor for comments. A few of them commented on the recently adopted privacy policy. Others remarked that the library and its staff cannot act in place of parents, nor accept the responsibility of parents to monitor their children's borrowing and reading behavior. Ms. Ely and Mr. Spero emphasized the several options open to parents when their children acquire library cards, options that should provide opportunity to review borrowing records.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Spero announced that all seven of the candidates for the Board of Trustees had been elected.

The Board of Trustees of the Susquehanna County Historical Society and Free Library Association meets regularly on the third Monday of each month at 4:00pm, cycling among the four branches. The next one is scheduled for December 18, 2023 in Montrose.

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Harford Spending Big On Parks

By Ted Brewster

The attendance was meagre (1), one of the principals was missing (Kyle Payne), and the power was out (a generator was keeping the lights on), but the Harford Township Supervisors conducted their November meeting on the 21st in orderly fashion, even adopting a budget proposal for taxpayer review.

Anyone passing through Harford village will see that the "roof," or pavilion, over the Nine Partners Monument is nearly complete. Mike Doney (MD Construction) is building it for about $16,000. Its purpose is protection from the elements; there are cracks in the nearly 134-year-old stone obelisk, and the Supervisors would like anyone with such expertise to offer a way to seal them.

The monument and its pavilion are in the latest of the Township's parks, and the smallest. The major reconstruction of the ballfield park behind the Harford Village Apartments is to get under way in earnest next year. The bill list this month demonstrates the resources being applied to preparations – over $31,000 for designs and electrical work.

More large sums were listed for the renovation of the Township's sewage plant. A total of $424,512 was recorded for construction, associated legal fees (accumulated over several years), and loan payments and interest for the project. Funding for the $2 million project is provided by a low-interest loan from the state through PENNVEST.

The water system in the village had a problem recently that required that some 20,900 gallons of potable water be provided to residents by truck while a pump and associated electrical systems were repaired. Dan Farham, whose company operates the water system, billed the Township $20,780 for the repair work.

The Township spent another $6,151 for a mold board for the grader, for which there is no qualified operator. The Township is desperately in need of qualified equipment operators.

The Township also expects to need some help with snow removal this winter. There was only one bid for the work, from Herbert Excavating, for $120 per hour, including equipment and a driver.

The Supervisors accepted a resolution authorizing the Harford Township Municipal Authority to apply for a Local Share Assessment (LSA) grant from the Commonwealth Financing Authority. The local authority will be looking for $360,000 for additional enhancements to its parks, in particular, the ballfield park.

And finally, the Supervisors agreed to publish their proposed budget for 2024, reported last month following a budget workshop. One major item in the budget is $400,000 for "aprons" at road intersections. Each of the aprons is a 75-foot spread of asphalt that is intended to improve the junction of a dirt road with a paved road, in most cases, with a state road. Two years ago the township invested in 9 of these. The result was successful, so now they want to do more of them – as many as they can get for $400,000.  Supervisor Kyle Payne has the list of the intersections he thinks can and should be done. But he wasn't at the meeting, so that will have to wait.

The Harford Township Supervisors will meet next – to formally adopt a budget, among other things – on Tuesday, December 14, 2023, beginning at 7:00pm in the Township building on Route 547.

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